The Wonderful Birch

Angelique Schmidt p-3 11/9/15

IN THE BEGINNING

When a young family goes out in search of their missing sheep, the mother stumbles upon a wicked witch who threatens to turn her into a sheep if she dares to spit on the sheath of a knife or run between her legs. Although the mother does not do either of these things, she is still transformed into a black sheep. The witch then poses as the woman and convinces the husband to kill the sheep for stew, but the daughter finds out and runs to inform her mother. Her mother tells her not to eat the broth, but instead take the bones and bury them, which the daughter complies. Because the daughter buries the bones , the mother reincarnates as a beautiful birch tree. However, the horrible witch gives birth to her own daughter, with whom she torments the birch's daughter.

SUMMARY OF STORY

The king of the palace orders a great festival and everyone is invited, but the witch does not allow the birch's daughter to go. Instead, she is given chores which she completes with her mother help, then hurries away to the festival after her mother gives her a new dress and stead. Upon her entrance, the girl fascinates the young prince, who accidently breaks the witch's daughter's arm thinking it was a dog. When the sky darkens, the girl returns home hastily, but accidently forgets her ring.

The next day she is given more work, but she finishes with her mother's help, then returns to the festival with finer items. Again, she amazes the prince, who this time breaks the witch's daughter's leg. And during the evening, the girl returns home, but without her tiara.

On the third and final day, the girl receives the most work, and yet again, the birch tree guides her. She makes her way to the festival, where the witch's daughter loses her eye, and meets the prince. On this trip, she loses her pair of shoes. The prince calls for a kingdom-wide search to find the maiden that the ring, circlet, and shoes fit. The witch, being as sneaky as she is, replaces her daughter's broken leg, arm, and missing eye with wood, then reapportions them so they fit the items.

Unwillingly, the prince takes the witch's daughter, but upon his exiting, he recognizes the birch's daughter. He takes both women with him, but abandons the witch's daughter at a river, who promptly turns into a golden hemlock.

A while later, the birch's daughter births a son, and the witch comes to visit her, thinking it's actually her daughter. Along the way, she meets her actual daughter, then goes to turn the birch's daughter into a deer. The girl runs into the woods, leaving the crying son to the prince.

Saddened, the prince searches for the deer with an old widow, who is able to make the deer return. The deer returns to nurse her son, but then leaves. The next night, the widow makes the deer reappear, then persuades the deer to allow her to brush the deer's hair. The birch's daughter removes her "deer skin" so the widow may comb her hair while the prince burns the skin.

The birch's daughter is upset, but alas, she comes home with them, where they live happily ever after.

CONTENT OF TEXT

The Wonderful Birch arose during the 1890s in industrial Russia, when a massive industrialization period occurred in Russia. Items were getting produced at outstanding rates, and with great quality. During this time, Russia had an absolute monarchy, and was ruled by Alexander III until his death in '94. Everyone wanted to appear as strong, determined, and hardworking to not only their country, but other countries as well. Women were considered caretakers and focused on the children, because Russia believed family was the most important. In the story, the birch's daughter transforms into a deer, who in Russian literature symbolizes innocence, gentleness, and freedom, which were also desirable aspects in women.

CULTURAL VALUES

The story of The Wonderful Birch exemplifies the Russian values of obedience, self-sacrifice, and dedication.

Obedience: Obedience is a valuable attribute to the Russian culture because it ensures that if you obey and listen to your superiors or orders, you will receive true happiness. This value is interpreted in the story through the birch's daughter, because she listens to her mother, and by doing so, she is given beautiful items.

Self-Sacrifice: In addition to obedience, self sacrifice is also an essential value to Russia. When you are willing to sacrifice yourself for someone you care of for an idea, you yourself become more respected and acknowledged. It is shown when the mother-turned-birch-tree sacrifices her branches for her daughter's happiness.

Dedication: Finally, dedication is an important value, as well. If you try hard at something, and continue giving your best, you will have a higher chance of gaining happiness and success. Dedication is expressed by the witches efforts to make her daughter appeal to the prince, and by the witch's daughter trying to please her mother.

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